Arbitration for P.E.I. health-care unions fighting vaccinate-or-mask flu policy
'I think it comes down to being forced to wear masks' says union president
Four unions representing more than 4,000 health care workers in the province are asking that grievances over Health PEI's flu shot mask policy go to arbitration.
Since September 2018, Health PEI has required frontline healthcare workers not willing to get a flu shot to wear masks when in direct contact with patients during flu season.
The Union of Public Sector Employees and the P.E.I. Nurses Union were the first to grieve the policy.
They have since been joined by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
UPSE president Karen Jackson said the unions weren't able to reach any compromise during two meetings with Health PEI over the last year, so have now asked for arbitration.
"I don't think anyone is opposed to the masks themselves. I think it comes down to being forced to wear masks," she said.
Jackson said some people feel singled out for not getting an influenza shot by the policy.
"There are some areas in the policy that if there is a confirmed outbreak in Souris that people at the western end of the Island are required to wear a mask, and our members feel that may be a little extreme," Jackson said.
Health PEI said in a statement that the policy is meant to protect patients and staff against the flu.
Evidence says getting the vaccine is the most effective way, but Health PEI recognizes the need to provide staff an effective alternative.
Prior to the policy coming into effect, Health PEI said it carried out consultations with all union groups, and did not receive any concern about the policy from the unions at that time.
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With files from Island Morning